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Coriolanus Addressing the Plebeians


Cruikshank's Coriolanus Addressing the Plebeians

Meet the late Georgian radicals, in the guise of Roman plebeians in conflict with their social superiors. In this political satire, Coriolanus Addressing the Plebeians, the caricature artist George Cruikshank ridicules the confrontation between  George IV and the radical press between December 1819 and January 1820.  After the Peterloo massacre, when fifteen supporters of parliamentary reform were killed in Manchester by charging cavalrymen, prominent radicals put the unpopular monarch under intense pressure. Cruikshank likens this to the face-off between the legendary early Roman statesman Caius Marcius Coriolanus, known to his readers from Plutarch via Shakespeare, and the plebeian class at Rome. Three well-known radical agitators are arranged under the banner ‘Blood and Thunder’:  Thomas Preston, Dr James Watson, and Arthur Thistlewood.  Beside them are the journalists Richard Carlile, Thomas Wooler (of The Black Dwarf), and William Cobbett, who is holding Tom Paine’s bones. Among the more moderate reformers lining up are the satirist William Hone and  the creator of the caricature, Cruikshank himself.  They sport the red cap of the Roman freedman.


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